OCTOBER 16, 2006 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY, MALACANANG) A big welcome awaits President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on her visit here tomorrow (Monday) as the special guest of the 58th Charter Day anniversary celebration of this lone city of Samar Island.

The President flies in from Manila after the flag-raising ceremony and United Nations Day celebration program at the Kalayaan grounds in Malacanang.

Upon arrival at the Calbayog airport, she will immediately preside over a private meeting with top officials of the three Samar provinces -- Eastern Samar, (Western) Samar and Northern Samar -- led by host Calbayog City Mayor Mel Sarmiento, at the airport terminal building.

Expected to top the agenda of the airport powwow are the various developments projects lined up for implementation by the Arroyo administration for the whole Samar Island, ranging from irrigation facilities to farm-to-market roads, school buildings to the multibillion-peso upgrading of the battered Calbayog-Catbalogan-Wright section of the old Maharlika Highway.

Sarmiento, chairman of the regional development council (RDC) committee on infrastructure, has readied an audio-visual presentation of the priority programs and projects of the whole Samar Island under the Medium Term Philippine Investment Program (MTPIP), Eastern Visayas component.

From the airport en route to the Tiburcio Tancinco Memorial Institute of Science and Technology, the venue of the Charter Day celebration, the President is expected to make a brief inspection of the city's agro-industrial fair and trade exhibit at Calbayog's Cardinal Rosales Plaza.

Among the goods featured in the trade exhibit are locally-produced food items, including the "tinapa," a processed fish and now Calbayog's most popular export product.

The President will also award certificates of tenure to 19 urban poor associations of Calbayog City.

Over 500 Sulu folks benefit from Filipino-American medical mission

PATIKUL, Sulu – Various government agencies and non-government organizations teamed up with American medical personnel in distributing relief goods and conducting a medical and dental mission Saturday for the local residents affected by the ongoing military campaign against suspected terrorists in this province.

Aside from receiving relief items, more than 500 residents were treated in the medical mission under the Sulu Evacuee-Aid Mission (SEAM) conducted by volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses at the Kadday Mampallam Elementary School here.

It was the second medical mission conducted by the composite group in Sulu last week.

The first SEAM was held last Oct.10 in Indanan town, initiated by Presidential Assistant for Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi (BASULTA) Affairs Amilbahar Amilasan with assistance from the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Peace Working Group-Sulu, and the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (CHD).

Among those present were OES Assistant Secretary Severo Catura, Patikul Mayor Ismunlatip Suhuri, Provincial Administrator Don Loong, Prof. Sahi Udjah of the Peace Working Group (PWG), Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) chief Brig. Gen. Juancho Sabban, Task Force Comet chief Brig. Gen. Ruben Rafael, and Col. Daniel Maxwell, head of the US medical team.

During the Patikul medical mission, Catura and PCSO Assistant Department Manager Dr. Jose Bernardo Gochoco also pledged to assist the municipality in getting an ambulance and providing the needed medicines for the residents of the province.

Amilasan said the SEAM is part of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s "sensitive response to the plight of our Muslims brothers affected by the ongoing military operations against suspected terrorists."

Last Tuesday, government forces arrested here Istiada Oemar Sovie, alias Amenah Toha, wife of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist Amar Bin Usman, alias Dulmatin.

Dulmatin and another JI member Umar, Patek, are believed being sheltered by the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and are the object of the military offensive in Sulu.

Dulmatin and Patek were tagged as the mastermind in the Oct.12, 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia that killed 202 people, mostly tourists.

The presence of US soldiers here is part of their humanitarian mission and to assist Philippine authorities in fighting terrorism.

After the Balikatan exercises early this year, American soldiers also took part in a one-month humanitarian mission in Sulu, bringing medicines, books and computers and building schoolhouses for the benefit of the local residents.

Last year, a large contingent of American soldiers was also diverted from the Balikatan exercises to rescue hundreds of villagers who were trapped by the massive landslide in St. Bernard town in Southern Leyte.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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